Looking at this entire post before putting it up, and I’m stunned by the sheer lunacy of the entire topic. But, I promised people I would put in my two cents, and added a couple of coins more in the end and really does drive the point home that people will argue anything and everything if they think about it for too long. I hope this helps, and welcome discussion. Any flaming will get deleted. You have been warned.
Several years ago, I had attended the wedding of my two best friends. Both of them were members of New York Jedi, the lightsaber stage combat group, and quite a few of the attendees were members past and present. After the ceremony, I had the privilege of meeting a former member whom was known by the nickname ‘Jester’ (I don’t have permission to use her real name). Of course, we got to talking about our time in Jedi, and she asked me about my character.
Any roleplayer will tell you how dangerous that question is to ask. It opens up the potential to murder hours of hearing someone’s full backstory. I was no different. I told Jester of Ianto Uilos, known to many as ‘Rave’. Rave was a Jedi Shadow, part of the order that served as Dark Side hunters both outside and inside the Jedi. Part hunter, part secret police. On the day of his Knighting, he had come to an epiphany that the Jedi Order, whom had espoused the virtues of the Light Side before, should not reward someone who was for all intents and purposes an assassin and bounty hunter of other Force Users. He refused the right of knighting, and left the order. However, by the time he made his decision he knew hunting the Dark Side was what he was good at, what he could do. He became a freelance Shadow, and protected others against the Dark Siders and Sith. He was no longer a Jedi, he had become Grey.
“Oh,” Jester said with the weariness of a veteran. “Another one”. The resulting conversation revealed that quite a lot of those in the community often had similar stories of being non-typical Jedi, or people who were not connected to the Order at all, but were not Sith. Everyone wanted to be the hero, no one wanted to portray the Jedi.
This is something that crops up a lot, not just in the storytelling corner of the Star Wars Fan Community , but everywhere. People don’t want to be Jedi, especially those viewed in the movies. They were the default good guys in the story, whether they were interesting or not. They were bland, nearly indistinguishable in their near matching robes, and ultimately disposable unless they were important to the plot.
A case in point. Several years back (and after my talk with Jester) I had seen a show performed by another local group. It was a story about the Jedi and Sith racing to get a macguffin to stop/cause the summoning of a Dark Side Eldritch Abomination. The Sith were a distinct group, with clear storylines. The Jedi were a gestalt collective, with many of them not given name nor character, save for the designated main Jedi. I spoke to the writer afterwards and asked them who the protagonist was. “The Jedi, of course.” They said.
The problem was they weren’t, The Jedi were the de facto ‘heroes’ of the story. But the plot was defined and driven by the Sith and the lead Sith were given the most to do and experienced the most change. The Sith were the center of the show, and the preference for the Sith showed throughout. This isn’t necessarily a problem as long as you know where your biases lie. This trend got to be so bad from the local community that the Jedi were just there to turn to the dark side at the drop of a dime. When pushed, several members told me that the Jedi were boring compared to the Sith.
A lot of this perception is thanks largely to the depiction of the Jedi Order in the Prequels and subsequent materials. Dressed similarly, and often speaking in wooden dialogue, even the stars have a hard time making their characters feel like they are alive. To be brutally honest, this can be said of the entirety of the characters in the prequels. It comes from having to act in a blue screen void with half the cast CGI and only having to rely on a script that made everything feel forced and relied on telling everyone rather than showing.
Even without bad writing, being a member of the Jedi Order is a hard sell for anyone. Jedi and Sith are extremes on the Force and how to use it. The Sith are about the individual , what I want, when I want it, as I want it. The Force is a tool for them to use to manifest their will. The Jedi on the other hand were about the universal we. What is good for all, regardless of personal desires. Their entire drama is the eternal struggle between the needs of the many and their own needs. This is part and parcel of the Jedi Code:
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force
Many people take the code for dogma, and not as a mantra to center a practitioner in the moment. This is a problem both in the real world and in the universe, as many Jedi feel that following the Code as dogmatic law is a hindrance to actually doing anything. Those who do not follow dogmatic law, or the Jedi overall, were dubbed Grey Jedi.
So I have a problem with the term Grey Jedi. I’m going to list them and begin to discuss how they can work and why the can’t.
First off, the terminology of Grey tells you exactly one thing: These are the
Jedi who are somehow different. The Jedi are the far extreme of the Light Side, they aren’t the whole of the Light Side. The term implies that unless you’re Sith, you’re a Jedi. This is silly, and denotes the low key arrogance that the Order was levying (and lack of originality on the writers).
The Jedi were the largest organization that worshiped and represented (as much as you can for a non anthropomorphic concept) the Light Side. They weren’t the only ones. There were entire orders and even species that worshiped the light side of the Force. How do they factor in to that whole “Grey Side” situation?
My other main problem to the notion of the Grey Side is one of Setting. Star Wars is a Space Opera that runs on certain rules. There is a universal concept known as the Force that exists in all things. There is a Dark Side to that Force, which is seductive, addictive, and destructive. There is another side to that, which others have taken to call the Light Side, but it is often simply called The Force. And there is the sense that it is somehow aware and guiding.
Every character, Force Sensitve or not, is on one side or the other. Light or Dark The Empire tries to suppress the Force for only the Sith, the Rebellion invokes the Force in prayer at the end of briefings. Vader and Palpatine on the Dark Side, and Luke on the other, and everyone in between.
And I do mean everyone. If you are a character that continues throughout the series in some form or another, you are clearly on the side of Light or the Side of Dark. Despite Han Solo’s opinion that no cosmic Force guides his hand, it’s clear that he happens to be the right person at the right moment for the heroes. Mysterious is the Force. Boba Fett was already on the Dark Side, so much so that Vader had to restrain him against disintegration. Lando, as we see in Empire could have easily have gone to the Dark Side, let the Empire take Luke and company with them and let him and his people live in peace. He chooses to not only help the Rebellion but join them.
If the Force is everywhere and a part of everyone, then everyone is in as much involved in this than the Jedi and Sith are.
So when people create a character, or write a story set in this world. I stress to them this one key thing: In a war against the Light Side and the Dark, what side do you choose. You don’t have to be a Jedi or Sith, they are organizations. But what side do you chose to be on? The good of all, or the good of One. Light or Dark?
That Manichean attitude of Light vs. Dark/Good vs. Evil is not a concept a lot of people really think about. In a world of grey morality, sympathetic villains and self righteous heroes, that’s a hard pill to swallow. And in a society where personal self interest is touted, I believe that very few people wouldn’t default to the Dark Side. There’s a charming thought, right?
I should be clear that while I have a problem with the term Grey Jedi, I don’t have a problem with people who chose not to be Jedi. Jedi have their faults (especially as written) and the high standard their Code sets makes living that life very hard. It would be a hard choice for anyone to make and live with.
My main problem, however, is this:
This code has been making the rounds through the fandom for years. I am not aware of the source of the code, but it’s one that’s been touted the most. I object to it for several reasons. The first is, as I said before, that there is a Dark and Light Side. The second is that it’s less of a mantra and more of a rant with someone who had read too much Tolkien and Song of Ice and Fire:
“I am a servant of the Secret Fire,
wielder of the flame of Anor.
You cannot pass.
The dark fire will not avail you,”
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my death.
I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.
I shall wear no crowns and win no glory.
I shall live and die at my post.
I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls.
I am the shield that guards the realms of men.
I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
– Oath of the Night’s Watch
See what I mean? The writer of this seems particularly pyromantic, emphasis on pyro and romantic.
The major problem, and one I want people who argue this to keep in mind is this: Where is the line? Where is the line between the Light and the Dark Side. If you can fall to one, and be redeemed to another, where is the space where the space between? Many people can argue that it’s just those not Jedi and Sith, I’ve already argued that the Jedi and Sith are merely organizations and we’re discussing the Force itself. Also, this code makes it sound like an organization of its own.
So where is the line? Where does someone fall to the Grey? Are they those who remain neutral, doing nothing and contemplating the greater mysteries of the universe? The code above makes it more active than that. They sound like a force to police the Light and Dark. However, that brings us back to the original question: How do we gauge the line between the Dark and Light. The Force is a Universal constant that does not seem to be quantifiable in any real sense. The video games don’t count either because even there you are only rewarded for choosing the Light or Dark, not the middle.
So, how do those who follow this code draw the line on something that makes up the cosmos? That would take a level of enlightenment that would rival Sidious and Yoda, two of the most powerful force users in history and even THEY screwed up. Likely not, and the definition would be based on their own perceptions and biases, and they would impose their own will to maintain what they would see as Balance.
Imposing one’s own will to enforce their own whims and biases? That’s not Grey, that’s Dark, and not the more forgivable shades of Dark. Look at the Grey code again, we’ve already established that the Dark Side and Sith are about the I, and there are a lot of Is in that code.
Personally, I think most of those who adhere to this Grey code are those who just want to play out being a Force User, twirl around a glowstick, and not have to decide between the Jedi or Sith. You can do both! But again, you need to decide what side you’d fall on in times of war. The series is called Star Wars, there is a conflict going on. It’s an eternal one and it’s about the whole universe. You want to play with the Forces of the universe? You have to abide by it’s rules.
Otherwise, you look more like an adherent of this code:
I know that many of my readers have come here for lightsabers. But as I’ve said before, if we’re going to talk lightsabers, we need to look at those who wielded it. Doesn’t matter our disciplines in using it. Storytelling, martial arts, competition, all of them require that we look at the culture we’re invoking when we do this, otherwise what’s the point?
Hope this helped.
Next up, we will talk about Lightsaber Combats 101: the Marks of Contact and Tactical tools. In the future, I’ll also do a write up for how the Jedi and Sith can be portrayed to make both interesting and compelling.
June 2017 Update: Jedi post located here
Special thanks to Jenn Bechtel for the two photos from the Ashes of the Empire larp, and for the amazing Maggie Lee for being an awesome roleplayer with perfect Sith ensemble.
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